ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

A journal for poetry, criticism, reviews, stories and essays published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998.


Three Poems by Janet Buck


Tomato Time

The last tomato's on the vine.
"Time to can," Gramma always
said, around September 1st.
Her dry eyes moist from all the steam
from all the kettles on at once.
Sterilize & sterilize—
rubber rings, jars and lids.
We'd picked & picked,
careful not to scratch ripe flesh
with fingernails, washed
each one like baby butts,
despite the fact that peeling skin
was next in line.
Ate homemade cookies
"just for stamina," is what she said.

I watched her hands immersed
in juice, saw her blood, either
coming in or going out.
Her hair grew gray, then ivory—
fell away—earwitness to the
stale grass of summer's end.
Despite fatigue, a corkscrew spine,
she still canned and we still picked.
"Hunkering down for winter, dear.
We're hunkering down."

Gramma, there's still one left—
heavy on the bending stem.
"Eat it child, go eat it now.
Always eat the last tomato on the vine."
When she started wearing
a hat in the house,
worry rattled my bones.



A Pleasant Lack of Boundaries

Our dog loves birds; they love her back.
Unusual as lemonade in wintertime.
A bright Red Robin hops the porch
to cop some shade. The heat is fierce.
Mitzi shares her water bowl.
I think of wire fences up—Iran/Iraq—
guns in hand, bickering on subjects
like a stretch of dust or heavy clay.
Arms are crossed, faces tight like worn-out
pairs of pantyhose, wrinkled by their histories.

One Red Robin loves it here.
I’m honored that she chose our porch,
trusting us to give her bread.
This should be enough for me.
There is no arsenic bleeding
from four angry eyes. No futile talks
of peaceful times refusing just to settle in.
We’re blind beside a bird, a puppy
splitting just one clump of grass.



Bye, Bye Robin—Bye, Bye Nest

A robin rests on the fence—his eyes inert, wondering about what humans miss
since they can't fly—or won't. I'll bet the birds think we're apathetic, pitiful.

So few dances in vert grass. Don't want footprints mussing blades. Yet, I'd do
anything to muss the pasture with a shoe, stand straight & tall as cornfield stalks.

Do anything to see the way I saw before, when letters weren’t some blinding blur.
Do anything to eat a meal I made myself, fresh pesto spread on sourdough.

The trouble with shimmying joy—it is not indelible ink. It turns mirage, then tragedy.
When armies of bones meet in the night, there is nothing pretty to say.



Janet Buck is a seven-time Pushcart Nominee and the author of three full-length collections of poetry. Her work has won numerous literary awards and she has published more than 4,000 poems and non-fiction essays in print and on the internet. Janet’s recent poetry and non-fiction have appeared in Antiphon, Offcourse, Zombie Logic, Boston Literary Magazine Vine Leaves, Poetrysuperhighway, and River Babble; more of her poems are scheduled for publication in forthcoming issues of The Milo Review, Mistfit Magazine, Extract(s), The Ann Arbor Review, PoetryBay, Doorknobs & Body Paint, The Birmingham Arts Journal and other journals worldwide. This summer, Janet was a featured author in and Burninword.

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